On the Edge (Desert and Rocks)

In On the Edge, Wes rents a partially sunk, nearly abandoned dredging boat to live in while he trains. One of the scenes shows him cleaning it up. If memory serves, he plumbs his own tub and puts it in the middle of the “living room.” He uses a rusted out fender for a trash can. He uses a mattress that he finds (I was thinking, “Black mold! Watch out! Yuck!”), and he puts it on top of some pallets to keep it out of the water. This made me think about my own house and how I have arranged it for running. (It also expanded my mind to think what I could do if I lived alone!) I have about three feet of counter top in the kitchen that is devoted to me. It is where I prepare a lot of food and fuel, and it is where I “launch” in the morning. Basically, anything I put down there is not disturbed by anyone else. I really appreciate being able to keep a small mess in the kitchen. And my closet is the place where I have all my running supplies, and all of my stuff laid out so I can efficiently get dressed and out the door in the morning. There is a lot of junk in there, and there is a lot of stuff that has been scavenged and re-purposed.

It also made me think about finding (or building) your own desert (a stark, plain landscape) and being at home in it. One of the hardest things for me as a runner is traveling. This means I am out of my usual routine. And it also usually means I wind up indulging in temptations or suffering from want with much higher frequency than when I am at home. I recently thought of this as being analogous to Jesus in the desert when the Evil One urges him to turn stone into bread. Jesus says, “People don’t live on bread alone, but on every word of God.” It made me wonder, as I am moving through a dessert landscape, if I could see that some of the bread (like Chocolate Thunder at Long Horn) is actually a stone. It is something that I will have to carry once I eat it. And it will be dead weight. Meb Keflezighi talks about seeing the trees in the United States and remembering his childhood when he would spend all day looking for firewood. Here trees are just part of the landscape. He looks around at the trees and thinks, “That would make great firewood!” or “I could build a home out of that!” So, what am I seeing as I look around? Is that food “fuel” or a “building supply” for my body? Is it beauty? (A tree) Is it a burden? (A stone) I pray, “God, help me create a desert in this dessert place. And open my eyes.”

In the desert, the Evil One said, “turn these stones into bread.” And I wonder, was Jesus also thinking, “I could turn this desert into the Garden of Eden. No problem. But you’ll have to be patient and open your eyes. Can’t you see that these rocks ARE bread? Eventually they will erode away to dust, become earth and food for wheat. Then you can harvest it and eat. And then the rock will have become part of you. Just wait a while, and these very same rocks will shout out to me, “Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the WIND (am-is-are-was-were-be-being-been)!” Them bones, them bones, them dry bones, them bones are gonna rise again.

Thinking about rocks reminds me of Caballo Blanco in Born to Run who knows the rocks on the trails. He has names for some of them, and categorizes them as ayudantes (helpers) or tricksters, which look like helpers but are actually ready to roll out from underneath you. Then, there are the chingoncitos (little bastards). The ayudantes are rooted in place. They are solid. They have bloomed where they were planted. They make your footsteps firm.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” And Simon gets it right. He says, “You are the Christ-Messiah. The 0N3 (one) sent by YHWH.” And Jesus says, “Simon, you are right! Blessed are you because you were listening to God. No person has told you this, because it is still a secret. This secret is the rock (ayudante) that I’ll build my church on. And the gates of the underworld will be bowled over by it. And, you Simon, I will call you Peter, the rock, because you know this truth.”

Next I imagined my life as a rock in a stream tumbling toward the sea. The God who “brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, [and] set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm,” (Psalm 40:2) will bring me to the sea (the underworld, death). But I won’t stop there. I will bowl over the gates of hell, and become a part of the Earth and its continuing life. Whatever happens in death, God will hold me, and my life will not be undone by it.

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